Kenosha Unified School District elections (2014)
|General Election date:|
Method of election
What was at stake?
Kenosha Unified School District
Kenosha County, Wisconsin ballot measures
Local ballot measures, Wisconsin
Two seats on the Kenosha Board of Education were up for general election on April 1, 2014. Challengers Gary J. Kunich and Dan Wade defeated incumbent Jo Ann Taube and challenger Mike Falkofske. Incumbent Robert Nuzzo and challenger Michael Kehoe were defeated in a primary election on February 18.
Candidates were divided about the replacement of former superintendent Michele Hancock as well as the board's decision to negotiate with teachers despite a state law restricting collective bargaining over salaries. Ousted board member Robert Nuzzo supported Hancock while Jo Ann Taube advocated for changes to Hancock's reform policies. Taube defended the board's decision to negotiate a new contract with teachers as an effort to ensure stability. Challengers Gary J. Kunich and Dan Wade criticized district officials for sacrificing transparency for stability. Mike Falkofske criticized former superintendent Michele Hancock as well as growing class sizes in district schools.
About the districtKenosha County, Wisconsin. Kenosha is home to 100,150 residents according to the U.S. Census. Kenosha Unified School District is the third-largest school district in Wisconsin, serving 22,986 students during the 2010-2011 school year.
Kenosha underperformed in comparison to the rest of Wisconsin in terms of higher education achievement in 2010. The United States Census Bureau found that 22.9 percent of Kenosha residents aged 25 years and older had attained a bachelor's degree compared to 26.4 percent for Wisconsin as a whole. The median household income in Kenosha was $49,641 compared to $52,627 for the state of Wisconsin. The poverty rate in Kenosha was 16.2 percent compared to 12.5 percent for the entire state.
Note: The United States Census Bureau considers "Hispanic or Latino" to be a place of origin, not a race. Therefore, the Census allows citizens to report both their race and that they are from a "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin simultaneously. As a result, the percentages in each column of the racial demographics table will exceed 100 percent. Each column will add up to 100 percent after removing the "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin percentages.
Method of board member selection
The Kenosha Board of Education consists of seven members elected at-large to three-year terms. There was a primary election on February 18, 2014 and the general election was held on April 1, 2014. Three seats will be up for election in 2015 and two seats will be on the ballot in 2016.
Candidates for the Board of Education must be 18 years old, citizens of the United States and residents of the district at least 10 days before the election. Each candidate submitted at least 100 valid signatures to the Kenosha County Clerk by January 7, 2014.
- Mike Falkofske
- Graduate, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
- GIS specialist, MGP Inc.
- Gary J. Kunich
- Graduate, Thomas Edison State College and Regent University
- Communications director, Milwaukee Veteran Affairs Medical Center
- Veteran, U.S. Air Force
- Jo Ann Taube
- Graduate, Ouachita Baptist University and Northwestern University
- Retired educator
- Dan Wade
- Retired police chief
Candidates defeated in the primary
- Michael Kehoe
- Retired lawyer
- Robert Nuzzo
- Graduate, University of Maryland-College Park
- Manager, Southport Heating and Cooling
|Kenosha Unified School District, At-large General Election, 3-year term, April 1, 2014|
|Nonpartisan||Gary J. Kunich||26.1%||6,346|
|Nonpartisan||Jo Ann Taube Incumbent||22.3%||5,423|
|Source: Kenosha County Clerk, "Spring Election," April 1, 2014|
|Kenosha Unified School District, At-large Primary Election, 3-year term, February 18, 2014|
|Nonpartisan||Jo Ann Taube Incumbent||19.7%||1,917|
|Nonpartisan||Gary J. Kunich||18.7%||1,826|
|Nonpartisan||Robert Nuzzo Incumbent||13%||1,271|
|Source: Kenosha County Clerk, "Spring Primary Election," accessed February 18, 2014|
The Kenosha Education Association (KEA) endorsed Jo Ann Taube ahead of the February 18 primary. The KEA also encouraged voters to select either Michael Kehoe or Mike Falkofske on the primary ballot.
Candidates received a total of $18,754.32 and spent a total of $10,510.27 by the March 24 pre-election reporting deadline, according to the school board secretary. State law allows candidates to claim exempt status from campaign finance reporting if contributions and expenditures do not exceed $1,000 during a calendar year.
|Candidate||Contributions||Expenditures||Cash on hand|
|Gary J. Kunich||$5,776.06||$3,657.52||$2,156.54|
|Jo Ann Taube||$2,759.00||$1,165.20||$2,331.71|
Information about earlier elections can be found by clicking [show] at the right.
What was at stake?
Issues in the election
Involvement of outside groups
The Kenosha board election attracted significant resources from state and national groups seeking to influence board policies. Conservative group Americans for Prosperity joined the fray after the February primary with a field team conducting phone banks and door-to-door canvassing. State director David Fladeboe noted that the group did not support any particular candidate but shares concerns with district residents about the school board's 2013 contract negotiations with teachers. Jo Ann Taube expressed surprise about the group's involvement in an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio:
I'm amazed they're (AFP) interested in a school board election in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where school board members receive a stipend $4,500 a year. 
—Wisconsin Public Radio, (2014), 
A group of 60 demonstrators protested Americans for Prosperity's involvement in the election outside of the district's Educational Support Center on March 29. The protest was organized by the Kenosha Education Association, which backed Taube and Mike Falkofske in the February primary. Outside groups including the Greater Wisconsin Committee ($10,000) and the Wisconsin Education Association Council ($8,500) financed automated calls and mailers opposing challengers Gary J. Kunich and Dan Wade.
Accusations of racism
Former board member Pam Stevens accused Taube of racially charged remarks about minority students at district schools. Stevens cited comments made by Taube during a January 29 forum at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside regarding achievement gaps in the district. Stevens quoted Taube as saying that "if black males are the problem we have to look into that." Taube countered that the quote was distorted because Stevens supports Dan Wade and Gary J. Kunich ahead of the April 1 election. The Kenosha News published the full quote from Taube in a February 21 report:
There has been a concern nationally about over-identifying minority students, especially African American males. We need to understand that, but we also, if they pick up any bad habits, need to try to nip that in the bud as early as we can. 
—Kenosha News, (2014), 
During the January 29 forum, Taube cited Head Start and early kindergarten programs as essential to teaching all students the social skills necessary for academic success. Wade explained his views on the achievement gap in response to Taube:
There is definitely inequality, I think, in the school system when it comes to minorities, and I believe the majority of that has to start at home, whether it be social skills or respect for authority and just respect in general...If they are not getting it at home, it may sound ridiculous, but maybe the parents should go back to school. 
—Kenosha News, (2014), 
February 5th forum
All six candidates for the Kenosha Board of Education participated in a forum hosted by the Kenosha Area Business Alliance on February 5th. The candidates debated the selection of a new superintendent as well as the board's negotiations with the Kenosha Education Association over a new contract. Robert Nuzzo noted that dysfunction on the board drove away former superintendent Michele Hancock, forcing the selection of a new superintendent. Mike Falkofske countered that Hancock hired friends as consultants and wasted resources on conferences rather than classroom expenses. Falkofske argued that the district needed an experienced superintendent to improve academic performance.
Gary J. Kunich and Dan Wade took current board members to task for negotiating a new contract with the teacher's union in fall 2013. Both candidates believe that the contract violates Act 10, a state law restricting collective bargaining. Wade's daughter, a former teacher in the district, filed suit against the district in November 2013 with the help of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. Jo Ann Taube argued that the new contract provided a stable working environment for teachers and staff after two years of uncertainty.
Issues in the district
Board negotiations with teachers' union
In November 2013, the Board of Education agreed to a new contract with the Kenosha Education Association (KEA) by a 4-3 vote. This agreement with the teachers' union drew attention because collective bargaining over public employee salaries is limited by state law under Act 10. This 2011 law also prohibits employers from withdrawing involuntary contributions to public employee unions from wages. The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), a conservative legal aid organization, and Kristi Lacroix attempted to block the contract in court after the board vote. The WILL argued that the contract exceeded salary increase limits in Act 10. District officials countered that teachers were given one-time bonuses rather than salary increases under the agreement.
A 4-3 vote by the board during a June 5, 2014 meeting settled the lawsuit with WILL by paying $10,500 in legal fees. This settlement also nullified the 2013 agreement with the KEA.
Censure vote for Kyle Flood
The Board of Education unanimously voted during a February 25, 2014 meeting to censure board member Kyle Flood for citations issued by University of Wisconsin-Whitewater police officers. Flood, a student at the university, was ticketed for possession of drug paraphernalia on November 11, 2013 and vandalism in late December 2013. On February 14, 2013, Flood issued an apology but stated that he will not resign from the board.
The censure vote was supported by board president Rebecca Stevens and Jo Ann Taube. Both members noted the district's efforts to ensure drug-free campuses in their support for the vote. District resident and former teacher Kristi Lacroix initiated an online petition to force Flood's removal from office after the incident became public. This petition effort did not lead to a recall or Flood's resignation.
|December 1, 2013||First day to circulate nominating petitions|
|January 7, 2014||Last day to submit nominating petitions to county clerk|
|February 18, 2014||Primary election day|
|March 24, 2014||Last day to file pre-election campaign finance report|
|April 1, 2014||General election day|
|July 21, 2014||Last day to file continuing campaign finance report|
Additional elections on the ballot
The Board of Education election shared the ballot with races for Kenosha City Council seats. The February 18 ballot included a primary for the District 6 seat on the council. Residents of Kenosha voted for 17 seats on the County Council.
This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term "Kenosha + School + District + Wisconsin"
- All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.
- School board elections in Alaska and Wisconsin spark debates over budgets, academic performance
- Incumbents dominate school board elections in Alaska, Wisconsin
- Kenosha Unified School District, Wisconsin
- Wisconsin school board elections, 2014
- List of school board elections in 2014
- School board elections, 2014
- Kenosha County, Wisconsin ballot measures
- Local ballot measures, Wisconsin
- Kenosha News, "Unified board takes a hit from candidates," February 5, 2014
- United States Census Bureau, "Kenosha, Wisconsin," accessed January 31, 2014
- National Center for Education Statistics, "ELSI Table Generator," accessed January 27, 2014
- Kenosha County Clerk, "Previous Election Results," accessed January 31, 2014
- United States Census Bureau, "Frequently Asked Questions," accessed April 21, 2014
- Kenosha Unified School District, "Board Members," accessed January 31, 2014
- Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Ballot Access Checklist," accessed January 24, 2014
- Kenosha News, "Falkofske, Wade for Unified School Board," March 30, 2014
- Kenosha Education Association, "The Non-Endorsed Candidates for School Board," February 14, 2014
- Information submitted to Ballotpedia through e-mail from Stacy Busby on March 25, 2014.
- Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Campaign Finance Overview: Local Candidates," May 2010
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- Wisconsin Public Radio, "Americans For Prosperity Gets Involved In Kenosha School Board Election," March 27, 2014
- Kenosha News, "Demonstration draws 60 to ESC," March 30, 2014
- Kenosha News, "Racism accusation aimed at School Board member," February 21, 2014
- Wisconsin Reporter, "Sauk Prairie school board may have violated Act 10 with new teachers’ contract," November 27, 2013
- Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "Kenosha schools, teachers union at odds over deducting union dues," February 11, 2014
- Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "Kenosha School Board settles lawsuit over Act 10 dispute," June 6, 2014
- Kenosha News, "School board votes to censure Flood," February 25, 2014
- Kenosha News, "Unified board president, vice president support Flood censure," February 14, 2014
- Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Campaign Finance Checklist," accessed January 24, 2014
- City of Kenosha, "Current Candidates," January 10, 2014
|2014 Kenosha Unified School District Elections|
|Election date:||April 1, 2014|
|Candidates:||At-large: • Mike Falkofske • Gary J. Kunich • Jo Ann Taube • Dan Wade|
Candidates defeated in the primary: • Michael Kehoe • Robert Nuzzo
|Important information:||What was at stake? • Key deadlines • Additional elections on the ballot|